Tag Archive | "travel"

How I spent only $77 on a trip to New York City [VIDEO]

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How I spent only $77 on a trip to New York City [VIDEO]


We are on a pretty tight budget right now – new baby and Christmas are on their way. So when I got the good news that I had an interview with Oxford’s MBA program in New York City, I immediately went into how-do-I-spend-as-little-as-possible mode. Here’s a break down of how I was able to only spend $77.31 flying across the country.

The value of frequent flyer programs

I am a big fan of loyalty programs and mileage plans in particular. I am a diehard Delta flier (or flyer since I need to start using the British spelling). Because I travel a bit for work, I have a bunch of miles saved up. I also opened an American Express Skymiles card a few months ago and received 20,000 miles just for opening the card. I don’t have any annual fees for the first year.

And because I’m a Medallion member, I don’t pay any baggage fees. Being a Amex Skymiles card holder also gives me and upto 8 other individuals traveling with me free checked luggage.

Roundtrip airfare cost 25,000 miles and $5. Opening the Amex Skymiles card almost covered the entire purchase.

The value of a good book

In case you haven’t flown recently, airlines charge you for everything. In airline industry lingo, it’s called a-la-carte pricing, unbundled pricing or ancillary revenue. Rather than put the price of everything into the ticket, passengers can choose just what they want to pay for. Delta offers seat back in-flight entertainment systems and wireless Internet access on many of its routes. Unfortunately, many of the entertainment options cost money. Enter Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, or any other book that you want to read. I was able to finish up reading Trust Agents, which I started on a recent flight to California.

The cost for in-flight entertainment was $0.

The value of good friends

Next to airfare, lodgings are usually the next most costly part of a trip. Though thanks to Facebook, I keep in touch with a lot of old friends, including several that live in New York. I quickly messaged one on Facebook and was hooked up with a place to crash for the one night as well as food.

Over night accommodations cost $0.

The value of public transportation

There is very little public transportation where I live. Not because I live in a rural area or anything, but it’s very suburban and too spread out for mass transit. I didn’t learn the value of mass transit like subways until I lived in Mexico City for two years. My friend was able to give me directions on how to use public transportation to get from JFK airport (which I hate) to his place. From there, I used the subway system to get around New York. I avoided using taxis, shuttles or black car services to keep my costs low.

Local transportation costs came to $43.50.

The value of awesome, cheap New york style pizza

I love pizza. And I really love pizza in New York. My friends had planned to provide dinner for me the night I arrived. Unfortunately, they unexpectedly ended up in the hospital for a few hours, leaving me on my own for dinner. I went to Sal’s Pizzeria in Mamaroneck, New York for some amazing pizza and gelato. Okay, I splurged on the gelato. But they had stracciatella and hazelnut gelato! I also had pizza the next day for lunch near Ground Zero. The good thing about pizza in New York is that it’s good and cheap.

Food costs came to a whopping $28.81 despite having to unexpectedly having to pay for dinner.

Final thoughts

I decided that I would share my final thoughts, as well as a few scenes from my trip, via video rather than making you read more. Enjoy!

Also, this post was featured in an edition of the Festival of Frugality.

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REVIEW of Travel Sites: Hipmunk, SeatGuru, Kayak and Apple’s Secret iTravel App

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REVIEW of Travel Sites: Hipmunk, SeatGuru, Kayak and Apple’s Secret iTravel App


For my day job, I work in the aerospace industry. In fact, I work with in-flight entertainment. So I tend to come across a lot of travel sites dealing with the passenger experience (from booking to in-flight). There are a few great sites out there that are beginning to gain some traction but you still may not have heard of them.

In this post, I’ve decided to part with some of my wisdom and share the secret. Also, please share any travel sites that you find useful in the comments. Thanks!

Hipmunk.com

Hipmunk.com

Hipmunk was started by Adam Goldstein and Steve Huffman (of reddit.com fame). The idea is simple. They believe that searching online for flights and hotels is a cumbersome process, in large part due to the interface and design of popular travel sites. So they set out to build something that makes searching, browsing and filtering search results easier. The result is Hipmunk.com. The site uses Orbitz links to actually book the tickets. So Hipmunk just helps you find what you are looking for faster.

Here’s what I like:

  • Tabbed Searches – Meaning you can run multiple searches at once using tabs. No more opening multiple tabs in the browser or multiple browser windows (does anyone still do that anyways?).
  • Multiple and Non-standard Sorting Options – They have standard options for sorting like “Price”, but they also have options such as Duration, Departure, Arrival and Agony. The Agony sorting option takes into account various factors and sorts by the amount of agony a given flight inflicts.
  • Very Fast – Finding a flight that fit my pretend itinerary really was quite fast and easy.

What I don’t like:

  • Transaction Happens Off-site – The transaction is actually completed on another site like Delta.com. I didn’t like having to leave Hipmunk and complete my purchase on another site. This is a plus though if you typically like to use sites like Orbitz or Expedia to research and then buy direct from the airline.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

SeatGuru.com

SeatGuru.com

Ever wonder whether or not you’ll have in-flight entertainment? Or if the seat you are reserving is a good or bad seat? If so, then SeatGuru, by TripAdvisor is about to be your best friend. To find out what your plane will be like, all you need is an airline name and flight number. You can also look-up the entire fleet information by airline.

What I like about it:

  • Very Detailed Information – The color-coded graphic is loaded with great information about the plane and which seats are good and which are bad.
  • Info on In-flight Amenities – Quickly see what’s offered: Internet, food, power to the seat, entertainment, etc. Also, you can find information about how much the amenities cost.

What I don’t like:

  • Not Always Accurate – I’ve found that the information is not always 100% correct.
  • Flight Not in System – I have also found that my flight number or information about my flight is sometimes not in the system. If I know the type of aircraft, then I can still look it up, but that is cumbersome and very manual.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Kayak.com

Kayak.com

Think of Kayak as the guy that knows everything about everybody else. Sites like Orbitz and Travelocity rely on partnership agreements with airlines in order to sell tickets. Kayak searches 100s of travel sites at one time, which increases your odds of finding the flight you want at the price you want.

Interesting side note, co-founders of Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia actually started Kayak.com in 2004.

What I like:

  • Smartphone App – I love my smartphone and I love companies that make it easy to use my smartphone for everything. There is an app for iPhones, Android devices, BlackBerries, J2ME enabled devices, and the iPad.

The bad:

  • Choose Your Booking Site – This would be a plus if it actually worked. I never had the option to choose which site to book my flight on despite Kayak’s claims that you have the choice.
  • Lots of Advertisements – The site is riddled with advertisements, to the point of excess. Although the ads are not directly in my path, I found them distracting (which I believe is the point).
  • Transaction Happens Off-site – Though, Kayak does this much worse than Hipmunk. At least Hipmunk passed my flight information to the airline’s website and I didn’t have to do much other than confirm and pay. With Kayak, I had to start my search all over again on the airline’s site.

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

Apple's iTravel App

Apple’s Secret iTravel App

With the ease of searching and tracking patent submissions, nothing is a secret for very long in today’s world. Apparently, Apple filed a patent in 2010 with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office and has made several subsequent updates to the patent as the product has evolved. Apple’s goal? To revolutionize the airline ticket buying and check-in experience. Though some of the features are already being implemented by airlines such as Qantas.

Some of the features include:

  • Paperless ticketing and check-in
  • Book your hotel, rental car, etc as well
  • The airline can offer you upgrades right before the flight
  • Information, such as where to get food, available to you at the airport
  • RFID or Near Field Communications check-in and baggage self check-in
  • Interfaces with aircraft’s in-flight entertainment system
  • And the list continues…

To read more about the app and see images from the patent, check out an article on Australian Business Traveller.

Rating: 5 out of 5 on the concept

For more tips and commentary on financial planning, saving money and just life in general, follow Rabbit Funds on Twitter.

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